A Portrait of Spiritual Friendship: Lisa Beamer’ Story
What exactly is a spiritual friend? What does a spiritual friend “look like”? How do spiritual friends relate?
Lisa Beamer’s Story of Spiritual Struggle
In Let’s Roll!, Lisa Beamer’s account of her husband, and 9-11 hero, Todd Beamer’s life, Lisa writes:
September 11, 2001, began like any other normal day. Yet it was a day we’ll never forget. The ringing of an alarm clock dragged me reluctantly from a deep sleep at 5:45 AM on Tuesday, September 11. My husband, Todd, rolled over and silenced the annoying noise. I roused slightly, peeking out from under the covers only long enough to notice it was still dark outside (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 1).
Some three hours later, Lisa’s friend Elaine called.
“Hi, Lisa. I know Todd is traveling today . . . and I was just calling to check on him . . . Do you have your television turned on? Have you seen what’s happening?” “Elaine, what are you talking about?” “Turn the TV on,” Elaine instructed. “There’s been a plane crash at the World Trade Center” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 4).
There would be four plane crashes that day. The United Airlines Flight en route from Newark to San Francisco that shattered upon impact in the fields of Pennsylvania farm country, shattered Lisa Beamer’s life.
“No!” I screamed helplessly at the television. Without a shred of hard evidence, I knew intuitively that Todd was on that flight. Suddenly I felt as though my body weighed a million pounds; it seemed my heart might explode. I fell to my hands and knees and gasped again, “No!” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 10).
In a chapter Lisa entitles Inside the Nightmare, she describes the clash of realities that we all face when tragedy ruptures our existence.
As I sat on the bed that Tuesday morning, September 11, my world had suddenly come to a halt. For a long time after I saw the crash site on TV and heard the news that it was a United flight that had crashed in Pennsylvania, I stared blankly at the field outside our window, trying to make sense of it. Just a few short hours earlier, Todd had been lying beside me. Now I was certain he was dead. My day had started out so . . . ordinary—with a shower, breakfast, laundry. And then the phone call had come. My mind somehow couldn’t reconcile the two realities (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 163).
Lisa raised the question that we all wonder. “What do you do when your whole world is suddenly turned upside down?” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 164).
What did Lisa Beamer need at this point? What would spiritual friendship have looked like?
Lisa Beamer’s Story of Spiritual Friendship
Lisa Beamer, who is a committed Christian, writes in her book what she needed and received. Having received official confirmation from United Airlines that her husband had indeed died in the crash of Flight 93, Lisa’s spiritual friends swarmed to her side. “Rev. Bob Cushman, Todd’s and my pastor, was among the first to arrive, along with Dr. Al Hickok, the professional counselor at our church. They came upstairs and prayed with me” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 168).
However, it wasn’t only the “professionals” who came alongside Lisa. “Members of our Care Circle and others from the community and church brought in food all day long, feeding the many people who gathered at our home, cleaning up messes, running errands, and taking care of the children” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 168).
Lisa highlighted one particular spiritual friend.
At one point, in the middle of the day, during a lull in the activity in my room, I was staring blankly into space. I looked across Todd’s and my bed, and there was Jan Pittas, one of our more quiet-natured friends, just sitting on the opposite corner of the bed, quietly praying for me, not talking aloud. Not talking at all. I didn’t want to talk; I wasn’t able to talk, and with her sweet, gentle spirit, Jan knew better than to try to talk to me. But her presence in the room was comforting. Thank you, God, for sending Jan, I prayed (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 170).
“But her presence in the room was comforting.” What did Lisa need? She needed human love to keep her open to faith in Divine love. People like Jan Pittas and others enabled Lisa to remember the goodness of God. “In those days following the crash, this truth became even more real to me: God knows exactly what we need when we need it” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 170).
Throughout the remaining pages of Let’s Roll!, Lisa shares the quiet, natural way others helped her to see her human tragedy from God’s perspective—through prayer, interaction, listening, and exploring Scriptures like Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:30-31; Romans 11:33-36; and 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
In an appropriately titled chapter The Big Picture, Lisa shares how these human messengers, her spiritual friends, helped her to hear God’s message. “God has whispered two words to me over and over again: Look up . . . Look up. Through that quiet voice I’m reminded to look beyond my own little life to the Creator of the universe and what I know of his perspective. Without fail, looking up brings peace to my soul” (Beamer, Let’s Roll!, p. 297).
What did Lisa Beamer need? Lisa Beamer needed:
• Human love to remind her of God’s love.
• Human companionship to remind her of her Divine Companion’s goodness.
• Compassionate discernment to reconnect her to God by reminding her of God’s grace.
• Community to invite her to communion with Christ.
Lisa Beamer needed spiritual friends—ordinary people helping her to connect to her extraordinary God.
Join the Conversation
Who do you have in your life—an ordinary person—who connects you to your extraordinary God?
Note: Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.